Tim Lilienthal: Northampton becoming a ‘Zoom town’

Published: 5/11/2021 8:57:04 AM

Recent news reports have documented the rise of “Zoom towns” — places where urban professionals, no longer tethered to an office, are flocking to in droves, driving up housing values to astronomical levels and pushing out local people.

Northampton is well on its way to becoming our own local “Zoom town.” Back in 2009, when my wife and I were trying to buy our first home, we, like many people, couldn’t afford a decent house in Northampton. So we ended up buying a house in Holyoke, with the thought that we’d build up enough equity to eventually be able to buy a home in Northampton and send our kids to the public schools.

This is now out of the question. We have put offers down on a half-dozen houses over the last year, almost all of them for well-over the asking price (biting our lips every time by the thought of just how much money we’re prepared to spend). And every time we have been outbid by tens of thousands of dollars by people paying in cash, putting in “escalating clauses” that push the winning offer to $75,000 to $100,000 over the asking price.

And all signs point to this being the new normal. This is not a bubble, but is where housing values are expected to stay. If Northampton isn’t careful, it will quickly become even more of a playground for the out-of-town well-off, clashing with the local population whose children don’t have half-a-million dollars in cash to be able to buy a decent house.

Tim Lilienthal

Holyoke




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